The teddy bear got its name from a hunting story that included US President Theodore Roosevelt, known as Teddy, and a Black Bear on a hunting expedition in Mississippi in the November 1902.
From that hunting trip the Washington Post newspaper showed a cartoon of a small Black bear cub and that was the birth of the Teddy Bear.
A couple in Brooklyn, NY made a stuffed toy that resembled the newspaper cartoon and sold it in their candy store and furthered the teddy bears creation. The toy bear looked cuter and sweeter and made a hit with their customers.
Looking back in history we find stuffed animals in ancient Egyptian and Mesopotamian civilizations and wall paintings of that era. Stuffed animals were used in medieval plays, such as the snake in the Garden of Eden and the Lion in the story of Daniel in the lion’s den.
During the industrial revolution, toys became a booming industry. A stuffed toy was also homemade and stuffed with straw, cotton batting, rags and also beans – the birth of the bean bag toy.
Today the total number of companies producing stuffed toys worldwide exceeds hundreds and possibly thousands.
So how does this relate to Mary Meyer Stuffed Toys?
My Mother was Mary Meyer and she grew up in New York City. She attended “Manhattan Trade School for Girls” and learned professional sewing. She learned the dressmaking and all the skills that go with it.
After graduation she worked for a company named “Miss Carol” who made very expensive ladies dresses, which sold for $2,000 to $3,000. She learned the business and in addition to being involved in the making of dresses, she also bought materials and did competitive shopping for “Miss Carol”.
Mary Meyer was a life-long sewer and her husband, Hans Meyer was a fabulous salesman. Together they formed a winning team and decided that the products that they made would be something sewn. In 1933 they started making animal pin cushions.
What is an Animal Pin Cushion
In the 1930’s most women sewed their own dresses and also made their children’s clothes. Only the more affluent people could afford to buy their clothes. Because almost every woman sewed in the 1930’s, these women all needed a pin cushion to store their pins and needles. You just did not leave them lying around, you stored them in a pin cushion.
The pin cushion design started out as a Red tomato and expanded from there. Mary Meyer (my Mother) created other designs, specifically animals, such as a Scottie, Lamb, Cats and a whole zoo of different animals. I continually search the internet and antique shops for old stuffed toys and pin cushions. I know they are out there, because occasionally I stumble upon them.
In the late 1930′s and early 1940′s Mother and Dad sold those same pincushion designs and used “Oil Cloth” cover the toys. If you are not sure what oil cloth is, you might remember your grandmother covered her kitchen table with oil cloth. It was a cotton fabric covered with a plastic-like coating that made it washable. You could take a wet cloth and wipe the fabric clean, whether it was a table cloth or a stuffed toy. Mother and Dad made washable, oil cloth toys and animal pin cushions until 1946 and the end of World War 2.
The oil cloth toys and the pin cushions used exactly the same designs – dogs, cats, lambs, etc.- same size, same manufacturing methods, just different fabrics. In the later 1940′s they then started to us plush fabric. Plush is an imitation fur, made of Rayon in the 1940′s. It was called Rayon plush and was a standard fabric used by the stuffed toy industry.
The pin cushion business finally went the way of the “buggy whip”, because fewer and fewer women were sewing their own cloths. Instead, they were now working in factories and offices and bought their clothes, making the need for an animal pin cushion a thing of the past.
That’s how Mary Meyer evolved into the stuffed toy business.